GAGS serves as a thematic extension of the very real clown who rose to prominence in Wisconsin during the early stages of the nationwide string of clown sightings taking place from 2016 – 2018. And while GAGS certainly isn’t reinventing the clown archetype, the film does convey the mixture of hysteria, nihilism, and naivety of a town experiencing a crisis relatively well.
Much like in the real world, social media is used as a catalyst for dangerous/vigilante-like behavior–which is typically reserved for idiotic teens partying. However, Krause pushes these bad decisions strictly upon adults in his feature film debut. This trope subversion is by far the most interesting aspect of the film. But much to the chagrin of the cast, adult idiots are just as easy to kill as teen idiots; if not easier.
The standout in terms of casting is the one and only Lauren Ashley Carter, who does an outstanding job shifting from an exuberant reporter to an apathetic and jaded individual. Realistically, she’s the only character that’s relatable as, up to a point, Gags is simply another vagrant taking advantage of a weird trend in an otherwise quiet town. But Carter isn’t the only standout. Aaron Christensen’s character of Charles Wright is incredibly convincing in terms of being swayed into reckless behavior. The most upsetting part being that he doesn’t realize his listeners true intentions. They’re not laughing with him… they’re laughing at what they can make him do.
Despite a decent setup and two capable leads, the narrative simply isn’t strong enough to completely combat its problems. It’s admirable that Krause takes some risks with the film. Not in terms of cinematic innovation; perhaps, but in terms of addressing the darker side of social media as seen in films like Unfriended, Tragedy Girls, and Megan Is Missing.
Unfortunately, this long anticipated fright flick will most likely leave viewers disappointed. And that’s a bummer, because this is a setup that could work (and occasionally does). Lackluster performances from supporting cast members, a lack of body count, and a questionable visual aesthetic are far more likely to garner groans than screams. Maybe worth a watch while clowning around with friends, but it’s probably best to keep driving right past this weirdo.
GAGS screened at the 2018 Cinapocalypse in Chicago, IL. No release date has been set.
Gags [Cinepocalypse Review]